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Legislating Morality: Should a town lift its video game ban?

It’s not uncommon for municipal governments to ban things from their town’s borders.

It might be something to keep their citizens safe – you hear about “dry towns,” which have passed bans on alcohol sales to curb drunken driving.

It might be to keep citizens healthy, perhaps a ban on public smoking.

It might be to keep their citizens behaving within a certain moral code – bans on gambling or adult-oriented businesses.

And sometimes, the bans might just be head-scratchers.

Today, the coastal town of Marshfield, Mass., has a 29-year-old law on the books banning video games from local businesses that might set them up – grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. It remains in effect despite a challenge that went to the Supreme Court; the justices declined to hear the case, and the law remained in place. As a Washington Post editorial summed up at the time, “banning video games is no more illegal than banning such oldtime nuisances as pool halls and saloons.”

When the appeal of the ban traveled to the Supreme Court in 1983, proponents argued that arcade games were a form of expression and that banning them was a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But when a Massachusetts appeals court was shown video games in play, it decided that there was no message being communicated, just pure entertainment. Video games, the court decided, “are, in essence, only technologically advanced pinball machines.”
Back then, the quiet town was concerned that public arcade games would lead Marshfield’s children astray into immoral behavior – stealing from their parents or selling drugs to get quarters to play another round of Zaxxon. This was also the very dawn of video game entertainment – which has evolved into a cornerstone of American life – and town officials who introduced the ban were worried about games decreasing the ability of children to learn, and eroding the bond they share with their families.

Today the situation is different. Video games aren’t typically played in restaurants or grocery stores – they’re played at home, on PS3s or Wiis. And they don’t require a steady stream of quarters to use, as long as you have the disc, a friend who can lend it to you, or a subscription to GameFly. George Mallet, a Marshfield resident who in April petitioned to repeal the video game ban, said in the Patriot Ledger, “Why should I have to go to Pembroke [the next town over] to play Pac-Man?” If this is true, it’s probably safe to say Mallet is the only one traveling any distance to play a dusty old arcade game.

But business owners have real incentive to bring back quarter video games. At the time, businesses fighting the ban pointed to the amount of their revenue that came from arcade games – the owner of a bowling alley said it accounted for 20 percent of his business. Indeed, bowling alleys remain one place where arcade games still thrive. Lifting the ban would allow more revenue to flow into businesses, which translates to more tax dollars in the town coffers.

But opponents of the repeal are concerned with what type of public video games would emerge in this day and age. Faith Jean, who backed the ban in 1982, told WCVB-TV, “We are not talking about little video games that kids play or pinball machines. We are talking about slot machines, gambling machines. Coin-operated devices are one more thing your kids will be asking money for. What kind of town do we want Marshfield to be?”

These fears were echoed in interviews by the Patriot Ledger, where resident Tom Jackson said the repeal would “open the door to adult entertainment – guaranteed,” and Police Chief William P. Sullivan Jr. said children would be placed “at risk to the negative aspects of life.”

Mallet’s proposed repeal of the ban was brought up at a recent town meeting, but officials voted to keep it in place and keep video games out of Marshfield for now. Opponents say the town needs to come “out of the dark ages.”

“I understand there are people who can’t control their kids (playing video games) – but that’s their problem. I’m 55 and I like pinball machines,” resident Jacqueline Little said.

What do you think?

Should Marshfield lift its video game ban? Is the extra revenue it might generate worth the repeal? Is the risk to the town’s youth a real danger? Should the town legislate moral behavior? Join the discussion!
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Comments
10/16/2012
Ledyard CT
Josh D
Mr. G
The town of Marshfield, Massachusetts should lift it's video game ban. Video games bring money to buinesses that have them "the owner of a bowling alley said it accounted for 20 percent of his business. " Playing a pinball game poses less of a risk to younger children's mind than playing Cal of Duty on the Xbox 360. George Mallet brings up a good reason as to why the ban should be lifted, as he stated, "Why should I have to go to Pembroke [the next town over] to play Pac-Man?” If American people want to engage in activites that don't harm themselves or others and provide help to buinesses that can help the economy, they should be allowed to do it.

10/16/2012
CT
Ashley G.
Galante
Arcade games are the foundation of childhood nostalgia. One can mention Pac-Man or Galiga to someone and they are most likely going to have a fond memory from when they were a child linked to the game. As Jacqueline Little said, "I'm 55 and I like pinball machines" and as George Mallet said, "Why should I have to go to Pembroke to play Pac-Man." These are prime examples of adults who look back on arcade games fondly. In addition, video games are not gambling or slot machines they are not "gateway machines" they are harmless fun. In summary, classic arcade games are not bad for children they create an object that they can connect memories to and those memories will last a lifetime.

10/15/2012
Ledyard/CT
mmbecker44
Galante/Ledyard
Children can get ahold of anything they desire in this day and age. It should be expected that children of all ages are going to play video games regardless of where that might be. In a couple of local and public areas, it shouldnt be expected to do much damage to the children's minds. It'll help small businesses make more money and allow children to have a distraction while parents get shopping done. I do not think its a concern that these video games are going to be a gateway into turning children into misfits. As long as the games are some what appropriate and checked before being placed, it should be allowed.

10/15/2012
ledyard
brandonfinney
galante
Its 2012 and around where I live I don’t see a lot of arcade games in stores and restaurants anyways, so It shouldn’t really matter because people play xbox and ps3 more than anything. This isn’t really a strong topic, so lifting the ban of keeping it in affect I don’t think it will have a strong affect on anything, actually I think they would waste money setting up the games, so I feel they should keep the ban even though its pretty ridiculous, ”stealing from their parents or selling drugs to get quarters to play another round of Zaxxon”, I don’t think kids would do this.

10/14/2012
Ledyard/CT
J.Farquhar
Mr. Galante
I would have to say that i am biased in this situation since I am a video game lover. From a critical standpoint though, I think that Marshfield should lift their video game ban for a few reasons. I think that if they lifted their ban, they would most likely start to see an increase in revenue. it might not make as much as a supermarket might make, but money is money and if towns are struggling with money, they would be wise to take it. I don't think that video games would be a risk to children because although there are explicit games, it doesn't mean that they will start acting out because of the games. That's like saying watching tv makes you stupid. There are only a few cases where people have acted out things that happen in games and were arrested for it but in my opinion, this issue lies all on the parents. The parents should pay more attention and control what their children play if there is something wrong with them. This is why on all video games, there is a rating which is determined by the ESRB. This label rates the maturity of the game and what makes it that rating. If the parents would be more active in what their children are playing then it would help.

10/11/2012
Hillsdale, MI
KelseyJ
Mr. G
I think this type of situation definitely depends on the town. In this case, the article stated that there were many issues in the past with children stealing etc, just to play the quarter video games. However, the article mentions that the 21st century technology allows kids to play at home, and this stealing is not really an issue anymore. This being said, I am not an avid video game player, nor do I see the importance of having video games in my town. But, our town doesn't have a ban and everyone is content. I don't know what the town is like now, but it seems to me that the local government was being very cautious in the past. Technology is an essential part of our time, and if the town wants to bring back video games, I say go for it. However, like the article said, people have access to their own video game devices, so the quarter games aren't necessary, but they would bring a nostalgic feel to the town.

5/10/2012
Porterville/ CA
Minerva
Smith/Monache
I have to say I’m very biased on lifting the video game ban, mostly because I am a video game fan. But nonetheless having to ban video games for risk of money theft is shocking to me. I would understand that some video games are explicit, graphic, and have mature content. But because of fear that they’ll steal to play happened back in the day. What can video games really do? If you fear that they’ll play too much, be a parent and do something, give them a restriction. Video games are for entertainment and for you to have fun, that’s why kids enjoy playing them. Yeah, when you were a kid you asked your mom for quarters to play and some stole them but that isn’t going to encourage the kid to steal for their lifetime.

5/7/2012
Porterville/CA
Mario
Smith/CA
I am both for and against this ban on video games. Video games offer no necessary requirement for living; it's a "want" not a "need". In addition, they serve little purposes to better future; they also influence youth. Why they should lift the ban? Money. Video games are a big business where a single game could produce millions of dollars. More money could be used for any debt that the area has.

12/30/2011
Montgomery/TX
Zach G.
Metzger/MHS
The passing of this seems like a waste of time and resources for the town. It's like banning rotary phones, Nobody uses them anymore! I think it's a fair assessment that the majority of people that still play arcade games in businesses are not kids, they are middle aged people looking for the nostalgia of their childhood. If businesses are still making good money off of them then I don't see the problem. Also something to consider, we're not talking about Grand Theft Auto, these are Top down arcade games like Pacman, Tron, and Asteroids. If you're worried about your kids playing these games you have bigger problems. With all of this said, it is still up to the people. If enough of them want this than so be it. This is the exact reason we have local government! We can't expect everything to be the same in every city. Different people, different environments. Maybe Marshfield is overrun with these antiques and they want them out of the way. It's up to them to vote for or against this!

10/19/2011
Sidney
Logan
Ms. Fontana
Video games have a age rating on the case, and if parents are worried about the content in the games then they should take responsibility. Minecraft ftw!

5/25/2011
Irving/TX
Jincy
Bradley/Nimitz
I dont see why Marshfield even has that law still. Maybe kids would steal quarters 29 years ago to play video games,but as of today I dont see why a kid would go to such lenght. Especially when they have playstations and wii. If slot machines and pinball machines account for 20 percent of profit then towns should keep them to make sure they have a steady revenue flow. I think the people at Marshfeild are just thinking into it way too much. Some of the worries they have are issues that will never come up.To me it seems like the towns focusing on the wrong things.I mean its good that they want to legislate some moral behavior.But what do video games have to do with it.They should try educating their kids through schools and with their families.

5/24/2011
Irving/Texas
Christian Castillo
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that Marshfield should lift its ban against video games. The decision to outlaw them was made 29-years old and according to the mentality of that particular era. I understand that the ban was implied for good, but times have definitely changed. One doesn't have to borrow money or go out to play today's video games. I don't think allowing video games will put the town's youth in any danger.

5/24/2011
Irving/Tx
David B.
Bradley/Nimitz
Banning video games is like banning jelly to go with peanut butter. Kids need these illuminated stimulation as a part of life lessons. They increase and enhance hand and eye coordination. Even gambling games, are kids reall going to want to play them? To me they are boring and how often do you see kids addicted to video poker? There is no imminent danger to kids, just parent supervision is recommended.

5/24/2011
Irving/Tx
Ashley J
Bradley/Nimitz
This ban is almost a waste of time that should be spent on more important issues in their community. Little quarter game machines do not harm any one, and if it helps create a little extra revenue for these businesses and restaurants, the Massachusetts town should lift the ban and move on. I don't think it necessarily infringes on any rights, but I think the effect of video games on kids today is as strong because of the social change in recent times. As long as the age restrictions on video games are well regulated, there really should be no hard monitoring of them.

5/24/2011
Irving/TX
Alen G.
Bradley/Nimitz
The U.S. Government takes it upon themselves to censor all common privileges to a level appropriate for the public. However, when attempting to censor something as universal and general as video games, it's near impossible to decide what's appropriate for who without restricting those who're able enough to play the games. Also, creating video game bans lowers revenue for the game creators and companies such as Sony, whose game consoles would lose sales. The danger posed by video games to the town's youth is irrelevant; anything that's profane enough to be censored can be found anywhere on the internet or on many channels of TV. The town can't legislate moral behavior appropriately, as I doubt any legislation would be followed.

5/24/2011
Irving/TX
Stephanie S.
Bradley/Nimitz
Yes,Marshfield should lift its video game ban. and yes its going to worth it after all quarters by quarters its making people 20 percent of their business and its also making people enjoy of something out of the house like the ps3, Xbox's etc. and actually now in days we have a great variety of video games and not all of them are bad for the kids, there are new video games involved with math, science and even history and help kids with school because its a easier way to learn things and also make their brain work harder to get to the next levels, I think everything can be controlled with help of the parents and telling their children what and how they need to act with the video games. I don't see what is wrong with this, but, we can always look for a solution.

5/23/2011
Irving/TX
Brittany P
Bradley/Nimitz
Marshfield should lift its ban on video games. The town should practice an effective way to teach students about the proper use/enjoyment of video games without completely illuminating video games. This is somewhat counterproductive as this will not teach the student's any lessons. Although this may seem like a real risk, students will still be exposed to stealing or violence or selling drugs just by attending school. So the town should just learn effective ways in educating their students in those areas. It is good that the town is concerned with the student's moral behavior, but parents play a major role in this so they would also have to get the parents on board.

5/23/2011
Irving/Texas
Aaron M
Bradley/Nimitz
I think Marshfield should lift the video game ban. The town needs to find ways to educate youth about the reality of video games. Video games are not dangerous. If a parent doesn't agree with the content of a video game, the student should not be allowed to do it.

5/23/2011
Irving/TX
Dennis N.
Bradley/Nimitz
Marshfield should lift its ban on video games. There are other cities all around the world that do just fine or even great with video games being played. Video games may bring unhealthy attitudes to the children who are playing them but that is up to the parents to limit the activity or not allow it. The extra revenue that it generates is a major need for businesses that depend on it. According to the owner of a bowling alley, twenty percent of the total revenue based on video games alone is drastically high. Kids love to play video games so why stop them unless of course it introduces a negative output so count out the town's youth being in real danger becuase it can be contolled... Yes, education is more important but why take away something a chold loves and make them study all day? The youth's moral behaviors should not be controlled by the town but by the parents.

5/19/2011
Montgomery/Texas
thomas
Mr Metzger/Montgomery High School
I believe video games should be banned because of the unhealthy acts it brings to youth such as playing a video over studying for school. the 21st century has came to a video game take over children will be placed at risk to the negative aspects of life.

5/17/2011
Piqua
Adrian
COACH Ouhl
The city should lift their ban because it is not up tp the city to regulate what kids should be censored to. It is up to a childs parents to regulate what their children are exposed to. Video games can do nothing but expand the human mind into realms that the mind has never thought possible. That doesn't sound very bad to me.

5/13/2011
Irving/Texas
Jacob
Bradley/Nimitz
Marshfield should lift it's videogame ban, for it is outdated and completely conflicts with the modern world. All the town needs to do is take a look around the rest of the world and they will see a society that can actually exist with videogames. This town is so far sheltered from the regular facts of life it's starting to look backwards for it's own safety. Besides the obvious fact that it's completely rejecting a form of culture (the National Endowment for the Arts decided that videogames are an artform about a month ago), but they are also caging in their youth from something they really shouldn't be afraid of. Many studies have no absolute link between a developed child's behavior and playing videogames. So, the parents of Marchfield need to drag themselves out fo the dark ages and learn to actually control their kids by themselves; don't rely on town ordinance to rein in your kids, do it yourself.

5/13/2011
Montana
Tarah
Mrs. Campbell/ North Star School
I feel that the ban is outdated and needs to be repealed. With video game focus now on home gaming systems or portable devices, allowing a handful of store owned games would hardly make a difference. Moreover, it may improve the type of games the child is playing. Pinball and PacMan is much different than Grand Theft Auto or Gears of War. In addition, everyone knows of the addictive quality of video games. Those quarters can add up and equal much revenue for local businesses; maybe the ones struggling to survive the repression or fighting against Walmart. If the town wishes to keep their economy going, I feel as if lifting the ban can do nothing but good.

5/13/2011
Sidney mt
Airika
Sidney high school
yes. quater video games are harmless. It's all in fun. The kids could be doing much worse things. Also it brings in some money for business

5/13/2011
Philadelphia/PA
Derrien
Ms.Agnew/Overbrook High School
I think Marshfield should lift the ban on video games because some businesses make money and get customers through the video the games. In addition, arcades make a lot of money this way.

5/13/2011
Philadelphia Pa
Samuel
Ms.Agnew/Overbrook High School
I think that bill was stupid to pass, cause how are you going to ban video games from a town where you know a lot of children resident there. Also without video games children would grow tired of being bored and try out awful things. Like smoking, drinking, and all types of drugs. So I think that they should uplift the video game law and let kids be kids.

5/12/2011
Irving/TX
Sharon J
Bradley/Nimitz
The Government should not take it upon itself to try and define people. Its not their responsibility. They're worried about these games making children violent. If they took the time to think about what types of games they play at home they would realize that a PACMAN game is the least of their worries. Also, in this time where money is scares whats wrong with having a video game for a child to play while his mom does laundry at the local laundry mat? Quarters add up, Especially when you want that high score.

5/12/2011
Irving, TX
Andrea C
Bradley/Nimitz
I think that Marshfield can do whatever it likes in regards to video games! The fact that this town has had this rule for so long is actually refreshing. To me, it symbolizes that there is still some conservatism and sense of wholesomeness in the world. People who are in disagreement with this law, should just travel somewhere to play or keep at-home devices for use. What parents allow in their homes is fine, but as for having “slot-machines and such” those should continue to be prohibited. I guess opponents may think this sounds ridiculously old school, but I'm sure that overall, the children of Marshfield are more well-rounded and intelligent across the board.

5/12/2011
Irving/Tx
Shelby Z
Bradley/Nimitz
I think that Marshfield should lift its video game ban, I see no reason why it's there in the first place. I don't think that there would be any harm done to the childrens' behavior or anything else. Some businesses actually do benefit from their arcade games so I don't really see why there is a problem.

5/11/2011
Irving, TX
Kimberly O.
Bradley/Nimitz
They should discuss it with the whole city, like have an overall vote and see what the city thinks about completely banning video games. The children could be acting out like that for other reasons then the games. It could be because of the parents or how they are treated by people or peers, so they just want to play a game that would take their mind off of that incident. I dont think that completely banning it is going to change anything. The children will just go to the next town, which will worry the parents more because the kids will pretty much run away just to play video games. To keep the kids safe, the town should lift the video game ban and talk to all the children about what they are doing and punish the ones that were stealing or selling drugs just to get quaters.

5/10/2011
Irving/TX
Josh J
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that Marshfield should life its video game ban because there is really no justification to the reason why the ban was ever placed. With technology being much more advance then it was 29 years ago, the law is out of date and should no longer be in use. Video games provide many concepts of life that kids can learn. Pokemon for example requires that a kid has to read to understand what is going on in the game. Others provide them with a knowledge of what is right and wrong. Also I do believe that the extra revenue that could be gained from quarter games could be used to raise money for charities or improvement.

5/6/2011
MT
Cole
Sidney High School
I think this law is almost pointless. I dont think that to many kids are going to go steal from there parents for a coulpe of quarters to play a game. Also i think if a kid is selling drugs the last thing we need to worry about is them selling drugs so they can play a video game at the local convenient store.

5/6/2011
Irving, TX
Bailey M
Bradley/ Nimitz High School
Marshfield should lift this ban, because many of their residents are pushing for it to be lifted. The extra revenue is worth it to those business owners who want it, and it seems like the townspeople are wanting to spend the money to play arcade games in their own town. The town's youth are not in any real danger, because there are plenty of kids in other towns that have arcade games that are doing just fine and are not addicted to the games. Many towns are trying to find ways of keeping their citizens safe and protected, but there is only so much that one town can do.

5/5/2011
Montgomery, TX
Natasha J
Montgomery High School
The purpose of banning these video games is to prevent children from stealing or doing worse things. This would be a legitimate law if today's parents were nonsensical and did not know how to parent or show leadership and morality. If the Government or State Government bans the smallest activities, or even bigger activities, then kids mine as well emancipate now because parents aren't the one's parenting anymore, the government is. I'm sure the right parents feel like the government is saying they aren't doing a very good job. This is also messing with our constitutional right's, some people express themselves with videogames, singing, and dancing, all of these could be harmful or even dangerous at times (learning “bad” things playing pac-man like eating people, straining your voice or listening to music that talks about “death” or “shanking somebody”, and using immoral moves on a dance floor) If the government keeps taking our freedom away from us, what is the world coming to?

4/29/2011
Philadelphia, PA
Daniel W.
Mr. Frank
The ban of public video games in Marshfield is ridiculous. The town talks about how public arcades can influence children by affecting their behavior. However, they disregard the fact that people can still play video games at home. There are plenty of other things to worry about than video games affecting the well being of young citizens. Things such as bullying, drugs, and media are more important problems for Marshfield to deal with. Businesses that have video games actually benefit from the profit made from children putting in money into video game machines. The towns tax revenue is affected by the ban of public video games as well. A good solution would be to keep public video gaming and using the profit made to help prevent more serious problems.

4/28/2011
Sidney, MT
Kyle
Sidney High School
I believe that they should uplift the video game ban, there really are no negative effects coming from video games. How realistic is it that kids are going to be taking money from their parents or selling drugs to play a video game? Not really. It provides a safe alternative to these things though. Kids wont get bored as easily and have to do harmful crimes such as stealing and doing drugs. I also believe that video games decrease the persons perception of reality, thus increasing their creativity. There are way more positive affects than that of negative.

4/27/2011
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mark N. Davis
Northeast High School: Mr. Frank
I believe towns should uplift their video game ban. It is not fair for people who do not like video games or stereotypical people to take away entertainment sources for children who work hard and strive in school to be successful. Us kids play games to relax and have some fun time after a long day of working and studying for school. Moreover, some games are bad for an “immature” child, which is why you have to be of legal age to play them games. The parents of those children who are not of legal age yet should know what is right and wrong for their child. It is not right for the state government to penalize all families because all children have different personalities and mind sets and those who commit heinous actions already knew what they were doing was wrong so you should not blame it on a inanimate object. To include, it is unconstitutional for the government to interfere in someone’s life and tell that person how he or she is suppose to live his or her life.

4/27/2011
Irving, TX
Mauricio Nunez
Bradley/ Mauricio Nunez
Marshfield, Massachusetts should lift this video game. We do not have a unanimous decision concerning this "danger". The business owners and the guy that loves to play pac-man also have a say in it. This ban also has a tremendous impact in this towns economy. If the citizens of Marshfield want to improve moral behavior, then they must try to not interfere with video games. If the children are not mature enough to handle a game like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, it is their parents responsibility to keep them away from such immoral behavior and leave the ones that ARE mature alone.

4/27/2011
Irving / Texas
Dalton
Ms. Bradley / Nimitz
If Marshfield has a fear of gambling related games, such as the article stated from Faith Jean “We are not talking about little video games that kids play or pinball machines. We are talking about slot machines, gambling machines.”. Then why didn't they make a ban on gambling related games? The town should lift their video game ban and replace it with an anti-gambling ban. The extra revenue of the games would bring some business back to life, such as arcades and what about the pizza parlors (Chuck E. Cheese, or any that has mass kids appeal). The town's youth is in the same amount of real danger as any child from any town in the United States, the only type of video games that should fear is gambling. The town should legislate moral behavior, that is like questioning the state if they have the right to put an age limit on drinking. Some times the parents don't take responsibility of their kids, this is where the government has stepped in. By banning video games, the town has not infringed on the towns people's rights, where is the right to play video games?

4/27/2011
Irving/ TX
Josh A.
Bradley/ Nimitz High School
I do not think that the banning of video games is unconstitutional. However, I do agree with the statement that the town of Marshfield is "living in the dark ages." I honestly believe that the benefits of releasing the ban outweigh the risks of the removal of the ban. The benefits of having more income, and consequently more tax revenue is much greater than the children of Marshfield being exposed to bad influences. Children are always exposed to bad influences, especially from television. I have not read about any ban/ censorship imposed television from Marshfield, so I think a ban on video games is just plain silly.

4/27/2011
Philadelphia/PA
Samantha R.
Mr. frank/Northeast High
In my opinion I think the video games should not be band. I also believe the government should not have the power to do so if anything I believe it should be up to the parents of the kids playing these video games. Their the ones who have the say about what their children can do, and can't do. I dont believe that a video game can cause harm to a child let alone changed their behavior. As long as the kids are not playing these games for hours at a time non stop I don't see a problem with it.

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